Marcela Echeverri’s new book provides a clear-eyed and sophisticated analysis of the political participation of both indigenous people and African-descended slaves in Popayán during and immediately after the wars that ended Spanish rule. Popoyán was a notable bastion of royalism, a thorn in the side of Bolívar and other pro-independence leaders for more than a decade. Echeverri shows that this regional politics did not result solely from decisions taken by local elites. Royalist resistance was undergirded by popular support from both slaves and Indians. As she puts it, “People who had been the objects of imperial rule became its defenders” (2). Setting out to explain this, Echeverri delves carefully into the histories of both the slaves and Indians beginning in the late colonial period, bringing them together in a manner seldom attempted by historians of Latin America.

Echeverri carefully examines the changing...

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